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Welcome to the memorial page for

James Robert Beck

March 8, 1945 ~ July 22, 2017 (age 72)

In Loving Memory
James Robert Beck
March 8, 1945 – July 22, 2017
Campbell, California

James passed peacefully surrounded by his family at home on July 22nd in Campbell, at the age of 72, from complications due to esophageal cancer. He was born in Sacramento to John Robert Beck and Mildred May Beck and raised in the Burbank area of San Jose.

After attending Burbank Elementary and graduating from Del Mar High School, James earned his B.A. and Master’s degree in Industrial Arts from San Jose State University where he went on to teach. After a few years he moved to the Department of Continuing Education implementing professional growth conferences, lecture series and seminars; the January session to provide additional opportunities for students to gain graduation credits and external degree and certificate programs.

He soon created the Professional Development Program as a part of Continuing Education, which influenced and informed the creation of similar programs across the state and country, offering countless individuals in the working adult and business community access to new opportunities through workshops, courses, and certificate programs. He continued his support of professional development organizations as a member of multiple boards and a conference presenter, eventually achieving the rank of Full Professor at SJSU.

At the SJSU College of Engineering, James served as the Director of Engineering Lifelong Learning and was responsible for the development of off-site degree programs at NASA Ames, Lockheed Missile and Space and United Defense. During this time James began his work with For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), a worldwide nonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion of STEM education through robotics programs for students grades 1-12.

After his retirement from SJSU in 2004, James followed 33 years of service to the fields of higher education and professional growth with a second career as a Regional Director of FIRST. His leadership and creativity fostered rapid growth in participation in California, helping to establish California as a major presence in FIRST with over 300 high school robotics teams, eight regional competitions and thousands of volunteers. His expertise was recognized as he was assigned to start FIRST participation in Hawaii; Colorado, Utah and Idaho. The passion and dedication that James demonstrated to the organization is reflected in his title of California Senior Regional Director, and his enthusiasm and inspiration will live on in FIRST as a positive force in the lives of young people maturing towards their future.

Throughout 40 years of marriage, James and Virginia loved motorhome trips with their kids, travels to Hawaii with family and friends, and adventures across the U.S. as a couple. James loved people and he loved his home, spending lots of time in his backyard surrounded by family, friends, flowers and succulents in a green environment he worked so hard to create.

“Heaven now has a succulent gardener!”
“I am going to miss your smile and kindness!”
-- James’s two granddaughters

James is survived by Virginia Kay Beck, his wife of 40 years, by his stepdaughters, Heidi Ann Preston (Matt) and Sonya Ann Schaefer (Phil Smith), by his sons, Jason Robert Beck and Justin Robert Beck (Emily) and his grandchildren, Emma Michele Preston, Clara Louise Smith and Jayden Robert Beck.

A Celebration of Life will be held on Sunday, August 27, 4pm at Orchard City Banquet Hall, One West Campbell Avenue, Campbell. All are welcome. RSVP to In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in the name of Jim Beck to The American Cancer Society (

 Service Information

Celebration of Life
August 27, 2017

4:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Orchard City Banquet Hall, Campbell Community Center

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